How To Prepare For Pregnancy
It is obviously very important to see a doctor and make some dietary and lifestyle changes once you find out that you are pregnant. But to optimize the health of your newborn and to have a smooth pregnancy, it is also important to make changes before you get pregnant. Here are some steps you can take when planning to have a baby.
- Get a physical. See your doctor for a complete physical before you plan to get pregnant. Being aware of your overall health and any issues that need to be addressed before or during pregnancy is essential to conceiving and carrying your healthy baby to term. If you have any chronic pre-existing conditions such as thyroid problems, high blood pressure, diabetes, or depression, it’s crucial to clear any medications or supplements with your doctor to make sure they are safe to take during pregnancy.
- Stop birth control. This may seem obvious, but depending on the type of birth control you use, you may need to see your doctor. If you are on the pill, you will need to stop taking it at least one month in advance of the time you wish to conceive. This is not a guarantee that you will get pregnant in the first month of trying to conceive, although that is possible. Lots of women experience their first period within two weeks of quitting the pill, but for others it takes a little longer. If you have an IUD, you’ll need to visit your doctor to have it removed.
- Start prenatal vitamins. Starting a prenatal vitamin right away will help you avoid any nutritional deficiencies during the early stages of your pregnancy. You’ll also have the time to try a few different brands to see which one works best for you. Women who start prenatal vitamins with folic acid at least one month before becoming pregnant have a reduced risk of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Supplementing your diet with 400mc of folic acid daily also helps reduce the risk of fetal spinal cord malformation.
- Stop smoking. If you smoke, now is the time to quit. Smoking can make conception more difficult and has been shown to increase the risk of low birth weight babies and birth defects. Smoking also exposes your baby to harmful chemicals, restricts blood flow, increases the risk of a miscarriage, and in some cases may cause preterm labor.
- Reduce or eliminate caffeine. Switching to decaf or cutting coffee out altogether is recommended during pregnancy, and getting a head start makes it easier to handle life without caffeine. If you are a heavy coffee drinker, try weaning yourself off caffeine slowly by beginning to reduce the amount of caffeine by 50%, and gradually work your way down to zero. If you love the taste of coffee, decaf could be the answer. If you absolutely must have regular coffee, keep in mind that daily intake recommendations for pregnant women are only about 12 ounces per day. You may try experimenting with different types of decaffeinated teas, as there is a wide variety of flavor options available both in traditional and herbal teas.
- Update your vaccinations. Check to ensure that you are up to date on your vaccinations such as MMR (measles) and Varicella (chickenpox) before becoming pregnant, as these vaccinations cannot be given during pregnancy. It’s important to do all you can to protect your own health as well as the health of your growing baby.
- Exercise safely but push yourself a little more. Experts tell us that we can work out at a moderate level while pregnant, so the more you can do now, the more you’ll be able to do when you’re pregnant. By pushing yourself a little harder before you become pregnant, especially when doing cardiovascular exercise, your lungs will be better equipped to handle the extra burden being pregnant put on your body. Work on your flexibility, also, as that is crucial during pregnancy to help prevent injury and stress. Strength training will also help you get in shape and build muscle strength that will be important throughout pregnancy, at birth, and afterward. Yoga is a great way to get the exercise your body needs to stay strong and healthy during pregnancy and beyond.
- Review your medical history. If there are genetic health conditions in your family or your partner’s family that could be passed down to your baby, it’s important to have that information and share it with your doctor. Genetic counselors are available to discuss any concerns and help you schedule any testing necessary.
- Reduce or eliminate exposure to toxins. There are harmful substances almost everywhere you turn, but there are ways to limit your exposure to common toxins while pregnant. If there is a smoker in your life, ask that they not smoke in your presence to avoid exposure to second hand smoke. Choose organic foods whenever possible, and switch to chemical free home cleaning and personal care products. Make your own household cleaners using vinegar and water, and switch to fragrance free laundry detergent or make your own.
- Eat healthy. A balanced diet is always good for you, and that’s never truer than during pregnancy. Following a healthy diet before becoming pregnant will make it easier to stick to healthy foods when those crazy cravings hit. Being at a healthy weight will make pregnancy easier to handle, and losing the excess weight once the baby is born will be easier, too. Reduce or eliminate any empty calories, artificial sweeteners, and seafood, especially those that are known to contain mercury. Eat foods that are fresh, locally grown and organic if possible, and avoid processed foods whenever possible. Focus on lean protein, fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy products.
The staff at Colorado Obstetrics and Women’s Health provides personalized, comprehensive health care for Colorado Springs women in all phases of life. Give us a call today at (719) 634-8800 to schedule an appointment. We look forward to serving you.